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Sensitive teeth

Why are teeth sensitive?

The majority of adults in the UK will have suffered from tooth sensitivity at one time or another, it’s a condition that’s characterised by a sharp ache in the teeth after eating or drinking something hot or cold. The pain can vary from a slight twinge to severe discomfort, and more often than not will dissipate after a few minutes. In some cases, sensitive teeth can point to a serious problem that needs medical attention, but a lot of them time it can be caused by other less significant issues, such as improper brushing or just the process of aging.

The pain associated with sensitive teeth stems from exposure of the roots and nerves, which can react strongly to extreme temperatures if not adequately protected by the mineral layers of the tooth. The dentin is designed to keep the nervous system completely encased; anything that disrupts this by drawing the gums away from the teeth or breaking the dentin down will cause sensitivity.

What are the specific causes of tooth sensitivity?

Lots of things can lead to sensitive teeth; it’s often difficult to treat because there are such a wide variety of causes. If you think your teeth are becoming unusually sensitive, make an appointment with the dentists at the Pearl Dental Clinic, they will be able to assess your symptoms and make a diagnosis in no time. Tooth sensitivity is not something you have to learn to live with, and there may be some underlying problems that need attention. Here are some of the common causes of sensitive teeth:

Improper brushing – Your teeth might seem indestructible, but a heavy-handed approach to oral hygiene can cause difficulties. If you brush too vigorously or use a toothbrush that is much too hard, you could accidentally wear away the outer enamel of your teeth, leaving the nerves exposed. Excessive brushing can also cause the gums to recede, leading to further sensitivity. We all know it’s important to clean your teeth, but if you don’t do it within moderation, you could end up doing more harm than good.

Gum disease – Although gum disease is generally associated with bad oral hygiene, it’s known that there are several types of bacteria that can cause it in people who take care of their teeth well. Sensitivity is a well-known side effect of this condition, primarily because it affects the gums and causes them to recede from the teeth, reducing the nerves protective layers.

Whitening your teeth – The dehydration that occurs during the whitening process – both home and professional – can sometimes cause sensitivity in the teeth. It’s quite a common complaint of patients undergoing this procedure, but it shouldn’t affect the teeth in the long term.

Damaged teeth – Not only can chipped or fractured teeth be very painful, they can also react instantly to hot or cold temperatures. The pain is caused by bacteria entering the crack and infecting the delicate pulp at the centre of the tooth, which becomes inflamed and will usually have to be removed.

Grinding teeth – Known medically as Bruxism, teeth grinding or clenching is typically a symptom of stress. If the habit is allowed to continue without treatment, the enamel will start to wear away until the dentin layer is exposed, leaving the teeth at risk of sensitivity. Most types of Bruxism affect the patient during the night, so it can be difficult to deal with.

Dental surgery – In the same way as teeth whitening, any kind of surgery can result in sensitive teeth, this is usually a result of invasive techniques that can lead to tenderness and sore gums. It is often a temporary state and shouldn’t last more than a few days.

How will I know if my sensitive teeth need treatment?

The best way to find out if your aches and pains are caused by more serious issues is to enquire at your dentist’s office; the dentist will be able to spot any early signs of gum disease or damage that may require surgery. It may just be that your teeth reacted to a very cold food or drink, but sometimes it can help put your mind at ease to consult with a medical professional.

Can teeth sensitivity be treated?

Most types of tooth sensitivity can be easily treated; it just depends on the causes of it. If it’s merely a case of the enamel wearing away with age, your dentist might recommend a specialist toothpaste that can help rebuild the minerals needed to protect the inner pulp. With regular use, your sensitivity should be significantly reduced within a few days.

For further reaching dental problems – such as gum disease or decay – you may have to undergo a root canal filling, which involves excavating the pulp chamber and blocking it up with filler material to prevent any infection spreading. Composite filling or amalgam can also be useful for covering the dentin exposed at the root of the tooth.

In the case of Bruxism, there are ways your dentist can help reduce the wear on your teeth and even rebuild the lost enamel; however, it’s likely that the problem will continue if the psychological issues are not addressed. As mentioned above, teeth clenching and grinding are both prime indicators of stress, something that has to be dealt with if the patient is to fully recover.

How can teeth sensitivity be avoided?

The easiest way to avoid sensitive teeth is to learn how to take care of them adequately. Brush twice a day and floss regularly, but remember not to brush too violently or you will exacerbate the problem. Clean carefully, but thoroughly.

Avoid highly acidic food and drink. Citrus fruits and juices can attack the enamel and cause sensitivity, use a straw if you drink a lot of juice and make sure you get rid of the acid by brushing your teeth.

Finally, ask your dentist for some advice on cosmetic procedures, such as whitening, particularly if you already suffer from sensitive teeth, and take on board any health tips they give you – they want to avoid tooth sensitivity and the associated problems as much as you do.

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